10 tips for buying wisely


Art is increasingly popular as a form of investment, but the art world can be tricky for even for a well-read enthusiast to navigate. Presented with countless buying options, from online art galleries to auctioneers, how do you make the best decisions for growing your art collection? Here is Private Art Investor’s advice:

  1. Buy what you love. In the art world there’s no guarantee you’ll get a return on your investment, but at least if you love the piece and want to live with it, you are less likely to regret the outlay.
  2. Beware of paying over the odds for work by a relatively unknown artist. Renowned collector Christian Levett, who opened the Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins to house his extensive collection of art and antiques, advises: “If you’re buying contemporary art from someone who isn’t already world famous you should only be paying £5,000-£30,000 per piece.”
  3. Choose a dealer or art advisor you are comfortable with, in the same way that you would expect to be comfortable with any other investment advisor.
  4. When it comes to contemporary art, be wary of assurances that a certain artist will go up in value. Don Thompson, author of two pieces of key reading on the art world, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark and The Supermodel and the Brillo Box, advises:  “Choosing art on the basis of its staying power is predicting what other buyers will consider valuable in the future. A gallery owner or investment advisor who tells you, ‘This artist will sell for far more, five years from now,’ is acting as a judge in a cultural beauty contest. Caveat emptor!”
  5. Be sure you have a full understanding of the condition and provenance of the work. Information on condition is especially important if you are buying the work online without seeing it in the flesh. Danielle Rahm, director of New York Fine Art Appraisers, advises: “Always ask for a condition report. If the seller doesn’t know the condition, they should hire a conservator to take a look at the piece and provide you with the full disclosure of condition. Provenance, any exhibition history, publications – they are all critical.”
  6. Once you’ve decided you want to collect a particular artist’s work, Miles Barth, senior specialist, photographs for online art resource and auctioneer artnet has a simple piece of advice: keep track of the prices your chosen artist is fetching over a period of time using resources such as artnet’s massive database of sales records. “It’s all about doing your homework,” he says. This will help you avoid paying falsely inflated prices.
  7. Don’t just buy a work of art because it’s by an artist you collect. It is important to consider the relative merits of each artwork, and where it sits within its genre or within that period in the artist’s career.
  8. Buy the best examples of work by your chosen artist. “Top quality always sells,” says George Mullen, specialist for 20th Century decorative arts & design for online auction house Auctionata. “Conversely, as a basic principle you ought to avoid objects of poor quality, replicas, new editions, and things that are available in large quantities.
  9. If you’re buying online, check out the returns policy. “At Auctionata, we describe the objects thoroughly and have such high quality pictures on our website,” says Mullen. “Moreover, we have a two-week return policy for the objects offered on our online-shop to ensure that our customers are always completely satisfied with what they buy.”
  10. In order to make the most secure investments, look for objects designed by ‘known name’ artists, as these are likely to keep their value and have good resale potential.
Inage courtesy of Sumetho/Freedigitalphotos.net

Inage courtesy of Sumetho/Freedigitalphotos.net